Community: “Investigative Journalism” (1.13)

TV Reviews Joel McHale
Community: “Investigative Journalism” (1.13)

It was only a matter of time before Jack Black made his way onto Community. I’m not sure how he initially met Community‘s creator Dan Harmon, but the two have worked together in the past and his sensibility seemed right for a comedy this surreal. While he likely won’t be back this season, there’s no doubt in my mind that he’ll return at some point.

Of course, Jack Black is usually a mixed blessing. He brings a lot of over-the-top energy to anything he’s in, but he also only really has one character he can play. It’s easy to misuse this character, but “Investigative Journalism” pulled things off with aplomb by letting Black be just as irritating as he is in every other venture, just this time with characters who react accordingly.It’s a nice little deconstruction of the generally pointless use of guest stars in series and how everyone acts like things are completely normal when, of course, they’re not. I won’t spoil it here, either, but there’s another great cameo late in the episode that kind of blows this away, too.

When the episode kicks off, Jeff and the gang are reconvening from winter break and meeting up before Spanish class has even begun. Jeff tells everyone that he’s setting out to be a new man, by which he means largely the same person as he ever was but with less of a stick up his ass. Everyone’s into this idea, but a problem quickly rears its head. That problem is named Buddy and is played by Jack, who attempts to join the study group largely by hanging around a lot. Still, everyone is willing to at least consider him at the time and while they waver on what to do about him, it’s clear as the episode goes on that it’s not really a democratic decision whether or not Buddy gets to stay so much as it is Jeff’s choice.

Meanwhile, Jeff is given the position of editor-in-chief of the Greendale Gazette Journal-Mirror by the dean because, well, it’s a TV show I suppose and lead characters always get that sort of opportunity. He decides to take this position as lightly as possible due to his new goal, which leads to a problem when Annie has a scoop that could possibly get the school’s dean fired. This also causes Abed to dub Jeff Hawkeye, a la MASH, because of the way he’s so into lounging around with drinks and telling quips.

The new student plotline continued the show’s growing obsession with the way it is in fact a show, in this case illustrating the absurdity of a group of students as diverse as the Spanish study group existing, let alone having no other real friends. Black’s lunacy provides some nice moments but generally this isn’t the funniest part of the show. It is, however, pretty interesting and a completely different turn from previous plots, which is part of what makes Community great. Every time it seems like the show is sinking into a rut with the same kind of plot, it shocks with something different … Modern Family is just as funny, but with few exceptions the episodes thus far have been largely the same formula. Shaking Jeff up is now, and likely always will be a large part of Community, but it’s not the whole show.

No, the funniest part of the episode remained the peripheral moments from the supporting cast. Whenever 30 Rock needs more laughs, the show can go back to Tracy Morgan and kick the lunacy up a notch. Half of Community‘s characters are that way, and while none are as great at this as Morgan, it does mean that a good half of the show’s lines are quotable in a way only the best sitcoms can accomplish.

“Investigative Journalism” wasn’t my favorite episode of Community, but I suspect that’s because it lacked any one great set-piece. As far as developing the characters and the world while still delivering humor, it did a great job and bodes well for the second half of the season.

Stray Observations:
“Vacations are wasted on the young”
-I didn’t mention it above, but ret-conning Jack Black into the show’s past is really what did it for me with his character.
“I received a text message about free sephora samples…”
“This is the first desk I’ve seen in 6 months that doesn’t have ‘Zeppelin rules’ carved into it.”
“They’ve got me editing the crossword because I’m a girl … and I love crosswords.”
“Call me radar” “When you’ve earned it.”
“I’m senor chang … and I’m so ill.” – theme song is a nice touch
“Yo I need my genitals.”
“It’s just a little nosebleed. I get ’em when I’m dry … and when my face gets kicked.”
“No one will care about my time in rehab if they think I’m a writer.” – If only this were true.
-Troy and Abed coordinated snaps!! They’re definitely the cutest couple on the show.

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